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Bowl Previews
December 23, 1968
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December 23, 1968

Bowl Previews

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The Orange

Pepper Rodgers of Kansas is a man of zesty spirit, given to learned, though effervescent, discourses on the value of surprises in football—surprises that include quick kicks, deep passes on third and one, pregame somersaults in public and the sour singing of Jingle Bells on his TV program. Joe Paterno of Penn State is a wingding gambler who will stake life, limb, home, country—and, last year, victory over Florida State in the Gator Bowl—on such madmen's bets as running on fourth and one deep in his own territory with a 17-0 lead.

Thus, it was inevitable that when Pepper Rodgers carefully appraised this year's Orange Bowl meeting between his Jayhawks and Paterno's Nittany Lions, his drawled verdict was: "If I had to make a guess, suh, I'd say this just might turn into a wild game."

Good guess, Pepper. But let us all be assured that the brand of wildness unleashed in Miami will be both artfully designed and masterfully executed. For Penn State (10-0) and Kansas (9-1) are two of the best-balanced and least-frenzied teams in America this year. Penn State's rough and cocky defensive crew has given up only 10.6 points a game. It has forced an impressive 49 ball turnovers—25 interceptions, 17 fumble recoveries, two safeties and five blocked punts. "They have a knack for coming up with the big play," says Paterno. "They like to exploit a situation." Indeed, the Lion defense—led by Tackles Mike Reid and Steve Smear, All-America Linebacker Denny Onkotz and a secondary that is one of the fastest in the game—has set up or scored 145 of Penn State's 339 points this season. Yet, surprisingly, these impressive defenders average only 203 pounds per man, smallest among the Top 10 teams.

As for the offense, Joe Paterno says, "I imagine we'll be freewheeling it against Kansas." Quarterback Chuck Burkhart's throwing arm has never been considered a significant part of the Lions' offensive arsenal, but he has completed 87 of 177 for 1,170 yards. A Terry Hanratty he's not. But he does have All-America Tight End Ted Kwalick, 6'4" and 230 pounds of superior athlete, a man so spectacular that Joe Paterno says, without emotion: "Kwalick has the ability to be the greatest tight end that ever lived." Then there is Penn State's rushing attack, which gained 2,739 yards. The Lions' running backs are quick, tough and beyond discouragement. Halfback Bob Campbell had a knee injury last year and a shoulder separation early this season; yet in his first game back, a 28-24 win over Army, Campbell rushed for 104 yards, scored two touchdowns and made a punt return of 46 yards. Against Syracuse he ran for 239. Don Abbey, down with a knee sprain during much of the early season, came back to offer enormous power at fullback, and Charlie Pittman, who carried the load while Campbell and Abbey were hurt, scored 14 touchdowns and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. The offensive line is led by Dave Bradley.

Much of the sunflower dazzle in Pepper Rodgers' Kansas coaching reputation has radiated from his brilliance as a master of the offense—Kansas this year averaged 38 points and 442 yards total offense per game. But the Jayhawk defense is far from being inept. The defenders did give up 175 points, but 93 of those came during fourth quarters—long after most of Kansas' victories were in the bag. The defense is enormous—especially compared to Penn State's—with such fine performers as All-America End John Zook (235 pounds), Tackle Karl Salb (275), End Vernon Vanoy (260), Linebacker Emery Hicks (232) and Guard Al Jakobcic (215).

Still, the main reason that Kansas wound up with its best season since 1908 is its offense—the "Rip City Boys," as Pepper Rodgers calls his backs. The leader is Bobby Douglass, a southpaw quarterback who rushed for 495 yards and completed 84 of 168 passes for 1,316 yards and a dozen touchdowns. Watch closely and you will see Douglass take an odd backward step just as the ball is snapped. Some people believe this tips the play. Rodgers, who taught Douglass the step as a split-second saver, says, "The only thing that step tips off is that he is going to run, pass or hand off."

Douglass can fire his very hard passes at two able receivers, Split End George McGowan or Tight End John Mosier. When he hands the ball off, it will be to a back-field that made better than five yards every time it rushed. Fullback John Riggins, a sophomore, averaged 6.2 yards, and tailback Don Shanklin averaged 6.3 and is a quick-kick threat. John's older brother, Junior Riggins, a tailback, averaged 6.3, too.

In view of Kansas' size and its slightly superior offense—in passing, particularly—it would seem the No. 6 Jayhawks have the edge over No. 3 Penn State. But it is a tiny edge in what will be a night of fireworks in Miami.

The Cotton

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